U.S. sends long-range rocket systems to help Ukrainian forces advance

U.S. sends long-range rocket systems to help Ukrainian forces advance

Russia is advancing in the east behind a vicious barrage of artillery that has strained Ukrainian defenses and Western unity over support for a protracted war.

The United States' decision to send Kyiv long-range missile systems that will allow its forces to fire farther and faster has likely come too late to save two key cities in the Donbas region that has become the focal point of the fighting.

After months of urging from Ukrainian officials to fight the next, potentially decisive stage of the conflict, delivery of the weapons will help the country's military face the next decisive stage of the conflict.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday he would provide Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will allow them to strike key targets on the battlefield - a move the Kremlin said amounted to the U.S. deliberately pouring oil on the fire. The White House National Security Council said the weapons in question were longer-range Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.

MLRS missiles can be equipped with GPS-guided missiles, and can be used in a range of up to 40 miles. HIMARS can have a range of up to 186 miles, depending on the munitions, and can have a range of up to 186 miles. This would be a significant upgrade of the Ukrainian artillery's current range, which tops out at around 20 miles with the M 777 howitzers its allies have provided.

The systems have the added benefit of being self-propelled, meaning they can be fired and moved quickly enough to avoid enemy response salvos.

Phil Wasielewski, a fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the systems would aid Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, where the battle has turned into an artillery duel. With their targeting capacity aided by commercial drones and counter-breathing radars, the systems would provide a qualitative and quantitative improvement to Ukraine's combat capability, according to Wasielewski.

These rocket artillery systems can destroy Russian cannon artillery systems and not be touched by them. Germany promised to supply Ukraine with modern anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, with Ukraine's allies gradually stepping up their exports of heavy weaponry.

However, they are unlikely to arrive in time to save swathes of the country's east from being battered and overrun.

The Russian attack in Ukraine's industrial heartland has edged toward capturing two key cities with the mayor of Sievierodonetsk — one of the last urban areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province and a key target of the Kremlin's Donbas offensive - said Wednesday that Russian forces now control 60 percent of the ruined city.